What drives supermarket shoppers round the bend—figuratively and sometimes literally? Apparently, it’s a lack of checkout lanes.
That’s what we learned from a recent survey of 50,218 Consumer Reports readers, completed by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. According to the results, 21 percent complained about grocery stores with too few checkout lanes and long waits.
The good news is that 46 percent of respondents had no gripes at all about the markets they frequent. But among those who did have complaints, about 10 percent grumbled about congested aisles, 9 percent about too few choices, and 7 percent about the poor selection of local products.
You can see the full results of our survey in our Grocery Store and Supermarket Ratings. But here’s a snapshot of what our readers told us.
Stores With the Least Complaints
If one of these supermarkets is near you, you may be interested in knowing that only about 23 percent to 30 percent of our readers had a complaint about them, making them the least complained about in our ratings.
Dierbergs Market. This Missouri-based market, which traces its roots to a country store founded in 1854 in West St. Louis County, garnered the lowest level of customer complaints of the 62 grocery stores in our survey. Just 23 percent of shoppers had any gripes at all about the family-owned chain. Shoppers at Dierbergs, which mainly has stores in the St. Louis metropolitan area, also had plenty of praise, rating the store highly for its cleanliness, store-prepared food, and quality of its local produce.
Publix. According to Publix’s website, you could walk into a Publix blindfolded and know where you are. Why? Publix says its stores smell like freshly baked bread and also seem friendly and welcoming. Not surprising, then, that staff courtesy got an excellent rating in our survey. That also might be a reason only 27 percent of the store’s shoppers had any complaints, according to our survey. Like Dierbergs, this big, southeastern chain got our highest marks for store cleanliness and store-prepared food.
Wegmans. At this East coast family-owned market, which tops our ratings overall, only about 28 percent of customers had a complaint. The store received our highest scores for checkout speed, cleanliness, store-prepared food, and quality and choice of produce. Our readers also told us they appreciated its selection of healthy options, which according to the website include natural and organic foods, premium teas, and gluten-free products. Partly for these reasons, according to the company, last year more than 7,800 people contacted Wegmans asking for a store in their community.
Fareway Stores. Fareway’s name may have a lot to do with how few complaints our readers had about the grocery store. Since its inception in 1938, the mission of the store has been to include “a wide range of fare—or foods” and to treat customers and employees fairly. Our survey respondents seem to believe Fareway has stuck to its core values. The store, which is based in the Upper Midwest, got high marks for the courtesy of its staff. Like Wegmans, only 28 percent of shoppers had any complaints. And shoppers ranked Fareway’s prices and meat and poultry quality as being excellent.
Festival Foods. This Wisconsin-based grocer says its goal is to treat customers like family. Shoppers here have little doubt that Festival Foods does that. Here too, only 28 percent of respondents had any complaints about this chain. Respondents gave the store the highest marks for staff courtesy as well as store cleanliness and the quality of its prepared foods.
Lowes Foods. Lowes says it supports local farms and businesses, which is probably one reason so many of our survey respondents liked the store, giving it high marks for the quality of the local produce it sells. Only about 30 percent of respondents who shopped here had at least one complaint. The chain, which has stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, did well in our survey on a number of fronts, including checkout speed and cleanliness.
Hy-Vee. The company’s longtime slogan, “Where there’s a helpful smile in every aisle,” apparently rings true for most customers. Just 30 percent had any issues with this Midwestern employee-owned chain. The company says it’s committed to fostering healthy lifestyles, and our readers liked the store’s natural and organic products as well as the courtesy of its staff.
Stores With the Most Complaints
Walmart Supercenter. This was by far the most complained-about purveyor of groceries. About 74 percent of Walmart shoppers had at least one complaint about the national discounter. Not surprising, then, that Walmart Supercenter landed at the bottom of our supermarket ratings.
Though it ranked very well for competitive prices, our survey respondents complained about Walmart’s checkout speed, staff courtesy, and store cleanliness. In addition, they griped about the quality of the produce, the lack of variety, and the quality of the meat and poultry.
A number of other stores also generated complaints from many of the shoppers we surveyed. The following stores had at least one 56 to 59 percent from their customers:
Pick ’n Save, based in Wisconsin
Safeway, with stores nationwide
Target/Super Target, with stores nationwide
Aldi, a discount chain with stores nationwide
Tops Friendly Markets, with stores in New York, Vermont, northern Pennsylvania, and central Massachusetts
Stop and Shop, a nationwide retailer
Martin’s, with locations in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia
Source: Consumer Reports